We all know the best way to de-stress and escape the monotony of our day-to-day lives is to leave them for a while. You plan the perfect adventure, pack up the rig, and head out on the road. Despite sometimes wanting to unplug entirely, which some lucky people can, most of us want or need to stay connected to work, friends and family. Being connected can be critical for changing accommodation plans, dealing with unforeseen events, looking for exciting places to visit on the way, and confirming reservations before you arrive.

Canada at the top – but not in a good way

Canada has one of the world’s most expensive mobile phone talk, text, and data services, with a triopoly controlling the market. The good news is that you have options beyond the big three (Telus, Bell & Rogers). When it comes to locking down internet for travel in Canada, there are other reliable ways to stay connected on the road without gouging your wallet.

Keep freedom in your pocket

Portable wi-fi devices aren’t entirely new, but they’re gaining more traction. You can use these wi-fi devices to connect your other tech (laptop, phone, or tablet) to the internet.

These units can be sold under names like portable wi-fi routers or hotspots, Mi-Fi or mobile wi-fi dongles. While they do need to be connected to a mobile network, you can get a SIM card with a data-only plan. Some of them are small enough to put in your pocket while you explore on foot. Some mobile devices can create a hotspot to connect to, so what makes a portable wi-fi device different? Here are some of the advantages:

  • You don’t have to drain your phone’s battery.
  • Portable wi-fi is much faster.
  • You can connect more devices to a portable wi-fi unit so you can turn off the data on your phones and have everyone join the portable unit. That way, you don’t have to buy a package for your whole family.

You can find portable wi-fi units just about everywhere electronics are sold, like Best Buy, Amazon, or Walmart.

Connecting to the ‘Information Super Highway’ while you’re on the road

Now you need to find the best value on a mobile data plan. This is a challenge in Canada, but you do have broader options for data-maximizing services.

Lucky Mobile’s $15.00 Canada-wide Data Only Plan includes 500MB of 3G data, plus another 250MB of bonus data when registering for Automatic Top-Up. After you’ve used your allotted 3G data, unlimited data is available at reduced speeds (up to 128 Kbps). You can’t call or text with this data-only plan.

Some of the great features of this option are:

  • No contracts. Enough said.
  • An automatic top-up option so you won’t run out of data mid-way through family movie night.
  • 24/7 access to manage your account through their downloadable app. Any data used on the app is free!

Now, reviews of Lucky are mixed with some complaining about issues with their promotions, but some say if all you want is plug-and-play data, it’s a great choice.

Freedom Mobile is another great option. Although the plans are not data-only, and their ‘Freedom Network’ is restricted to main corridors and cities across the country, they’re known for the cheapest full-speed data plans in Canada. Outside these areas, you’ll automatically transfer to the ‘Freedom Nationwide Network’, where you piggyback on other carriers at slightly higher rates.

Their rates start at $40 for their $50 Big Gig Unlimited 20GB plan. That rate is a promotion for the first twenty-four months and comes with no contract. The plan will give you your first 20GB at full speed on the Freedom Network + 1GB Full Speed Data on the Freedom Nationwide Network. Other packages are available at higher prices for greater levels of data. Some people say that Freedom’s network coverage is poor and that you get a lot of roaming charges. Others disagree and say the rates are pretty reasonable if you roam outside their network. They also have great add-on packages for travelling outside Canada if your travels have you crossing borders.

As with all plans mentioned in this article, prices are as of the date of publishing and may have Activation or other fees. Always research before choosing a plan, whether for your current mobile or a portable wi-fi device.

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